Skip to main content

Think safety when heading to the water this summer

| Healthy You | Safety

Two children put on life vests next to a lake

Watch for special hazards with natural bodies of water.

When temperatures rise and summer approaches, more people plan to cool off in our area’s beautiful lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

Recreating on natural bodies of water comes with special hazards, including cold water temperatures, dangerous currents and unexpected underwater obstacles. So it bears repeating that we all need to take precautions, according to Devin Rogers, MD, an emergency medicine physician at PeaceHealth.

Everyone, adults as well as children, should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they’re in open water, or on boats or other watercraft. For tips on choosing a life jacket, watch this video.

One of the basic, but perhaps most important, ways to ensure safety on the water is to go with a friend or family member. Not only is it more enjoyable to share time with others, it also helps to prevent accidents. Even experienced swimmers can become tired, causing unanticipated difficulty in the water. Having someone close by to intervene in these situations can make all the difference in keeping everyone safe.

No matter if you’re heading to the coast, a lake, or a local swimming pool, it’s always important to swim in safe areas and within your ability.

When taking infants or toddlers to designated swimming areas, an adult with swimming skills should be within arm’s length of the child, providing constant “touch supervision.”

Even children with good swimming ability and older children should be supervised by an adult who is focused on them and not distracted by other activities.

Although it may be tempting to dive right in, diving carries a much higher risk of serious injury or death. Shallow water and unseen underwater obstacles, like rocks or stumps, are often the culprit in diving injuries. Minimize your risk by only diving in areas known to be safe, such as in the deep end of a supervised swimming pool. Even if you plan to jump feet first, it’s important to check the water’s depth and to ensure the area below the surface is clear of objects.

Something people often forget when they’re surrounded by water, is to make sure to drink plenty of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated when you are active in the sun, and often signs of dehydration can go unnoticed. This can lead to cramps or decreased strength, compromising your ability to swim or get out of dangerous situations if they arise.  Early signs of dehydration can include dizziness, nausea or fatigue.  Take a bottle of water with you and keep it nearby throughout the day.

Remember that alcohol and water activities do not mix. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption significantly increases the likelihood of serious water accidents. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause impairment and greatly increase this risk. Be smart and avoid alcohol while out on the water.

Keeping these simple tips in mind can help ensure that your time on the water is safe, fun and enjoyable for you and your loved ones.